JUGGLING, balloons, tightrope walking – these may be normal for a circus.

But for one Anglican priest these skills are all part of his clowning routine when delivering a sermon.

Roly Bain is a professional clown and tours the UK with his slapstick comedy, but there is a Christian twist.

Today Roly is bringing his unique approach of religious storytelling to Southampton, and clergy members at St Mark’s Parish Church in Woolston are preparing to face the foolishness.

Roly has been travelling the country preaching as a Gospel clown for 25 years visiting churches, cathedrals, prisons, schools, hospitals and more.

His purpose is to make people laugh while doing God’s work.

The performances include riding a unicycle, juggling, walking along a rope, balloons and of course he is dressed in the iconic clown costume, with a white face, red nose and extremely large clown feet.

Roly said: “It’s a good way of preaching the Gospel; the church takes things too seriously sometimes. I do all sorts of things just trying to make people laugh and it suits adults and children.

“There is actually a very old tradition of clowns or jesters in the church and they can symbolise comedy and tragedy.

He added: “I perform Christian stories from the perspective of a jester and I have always had a brilliant reaction. I try to fit in as many messages as possible because I am doing God’s work ultimately.

“I think clowns are a more modern version of the jester, they are always the character in a story which everyone doesn’t understand but they know he is important so I try to give the stories some insight.”

The Rev Miles Newton said: “We wanted to have something different and find a new, novel way of communicating the Gospel. It will be an interesting experience and we’re not sure what to expect, but it’s good to have a fresh way of looking at things.”

Roly will be turning the church world upside down with his service at St Mark’s Parish Church in Weston Grove Road, Woolston, from 11am today. The service is free but any donations to Roly’s performance will go towards the Faith and Foolishness Trust, which supports his work.